Michael Schumacher Wins 1998 Argentine GP

Michael Schumacher in ArgentinaMichael Schumacher’s win in Buenos Aires was not only his first of the season but it also ended McLaren’s domination of the season so far.

Schumacher qualified second on the grid, splitting the McLarens of David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen, and was dominant throughout the race once he had passed Coulthard on the fourth lap. The pass itself was not without incident as, in what was almost a mirror image of his own controversial collision with Jacques Villeneuve at Herez last year, he braked late into a right-hander only to find Coulthard turn across him when he was already committed to the inside line.

The cars wheels touched and Coulthard’s McLaren, losing a sizeable piece of its’ undertray, leapt a foot into the air before spinning off onto the grass. Luckily he kept the engine running and was able to continue but was out of the running for the lead which became a two-horse race between Schumacher and Hakkinen.

Even using a two-stop strategy and taking a short, unintentional detour across the grass when the track became extra slick in light rain towards the end of the race Schumacher was able to stay in front of Hakkinen who only took a single pit stop.

Defending champion Jacques Villeneuve went out on the 53rd lap when he too came into contact with Coulthard who tried to pass him on the outside and left him nowhere to go.

The other points paying positions went to Eddie Irvine finishing third in the second Ferrari, Alexander Wurz in a Benetton, Jean Alesi in a Sauber and David Coulthard who managed to get a single point after a very eventful day. This was another impressive result for Wurz, in only his sixth GP, as he had never raced on this track before.

Fisichella, Hill, Frentzen and Barichello rounded out the top ten and Toranosuke "Tora" Takagi finished 12th, two laps down from the leader, but got a lot of good press after a strong qualifying run in the Tyrell.

Once again Ralf Schumacher failed to finish the race after going off on the 23rd lap.

After the race Michael Schumacher praised the new, wider Goodyear tyres and said that he expects the Ferrari to be even stronger at Imola where he usually does well.

Hakkinen Wins 1998 Brazilian GP

Hakkinen, Coulthard and Schumacher on the podium at Brazil

Following Mika Hakkinen’s controversial, field lapping win in Australia there were multiple appeals — led by Ferrari — against the McLaren’s rear-wheel braking system which allowed the driver to apply extra braking to the inside rear wheel going into a corner, in effect pulling the car through the turn which was thought to have given them an unfair advantage.

Hakkinen leads the way at the start of the Brazilian GPThe FIA subsequently banned the system — which had also been adopted by Williams and Jordan — but it did not make any difference at the Brazilian GP at Interlagos. The two McLarens of Hakkinen and David Coulthard qualified 1-2 on the grid, led the race from start to finish and lapped everyone in the field apart from Michael Schumacher (3rd) and Alexander Wurz (4th).

Mika Hakkinen leaves the pack behind at the Brazilian GPThis time there was no sign of the infamous driver’s agreement between Hakkinen and Coulthard to determine the outcome of the race like the one which annoyed so many fans in Australia. Hakkinen led from the start and was never out of first place, adding to his lead was the fact that McLaren was one of the teams that employed a one-stop strategy with their hard-compound grooved Bridgestone tyres appearing to be as good at the end of their run as they were at the start.

Michael Schumacher passes teammate Eddie Irvine at BrazilThe fates of the Schumacher brothers were as different as was possible; after a dismal fifth lap engine failure in Australia, Michael finished a strong 3rd and scored his first points of the season while Ralf spun out into a gravel trap on the first lap and failed to complete a single lap for the second race in a row.

Alexander Wurz leads Jacques Villeneuve at BrazilAlexander Wurz finished 4th in the Benetton and was the only other driver on the lead lap at the end of the race. This was his first points finish since he officially replaced Gerhard Berger at the start of the year, although he did finish 3rd at Silverstone last year while he was sitting in for Berger during his three race illness.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished 5th in the Williams and Giancarlo Fisichella scored his first point of the year by taking 6th place to open his tally for Benetton. Jacques Villeneuve came in 7th after a poor performance in qualifying and Eddie Irvine, who had qualified well, faded into 8th as the race wore on.

Jean Alesi and Jan Magnussen rounded out the top 10, both 2 laps adrift of the leader and fading towards the end of the race.

Hakkinen Wins 1998 Australian GP – With A Little Help

While Mika Hakkinen will be credited with winning the season opening Australian GP, his teammate David Coulthard deserves an assist.

Mika Hakkinen's McLarenFollowing a widely publicized prerace agreement between the McLaren drivers — that whoever led into the first corner on the first lap would be allowed to win the race if they were both leading on the last lap — Coulthard dutifully moved aside and let Hakkinen take the win even though he could have easily won himself due to a couple of bad pitstops by Hakkinen. Of course, it is not the first time that a driver has moved aside for his teammate, but usually this happens because of team orders to gain extra points for a leading driver towards the end of the season.

This was Hakkinen’s second win, his first coming in the last race of 1997 when, in a similar fashion, Jacques Villeneuve let him pass for the win on the last lap as a reward for not interfering with the Canadian’s championship battle with Michael Schumacher. It is a shame that Hakkinen’s first victories will be remembered this way as he has been working a long time with steadily improving performances to get to the top of the podium.

The two McLarens totally outclassed the rest of the field all weekend, qualifying 1-2 on Saturday and then lapping the entire field in the race. They added a new braking system and Bridgestone tyres to the reliable package that they were building at the end of last season and they could not be caught.

Only 9 of the 22 starters finished the race and there were disappointing performances from many teams who had hoped to start the season better. Notably Michael Schumacher, who was keen to put the controversy of last year behind him, retired after only 5 laps with a badly smoking engine. See the complete results.

A worrying potential side effect of agreements like McLaren’s is that already too many drivers drag race for the first corner as if their whole race depended on it. If, in the future, this turns out to actually be the case then we are likely to see even more pointless cold-tyre first corner collisions than we have already become accustomed to as Formula 1 becomes a cross between drag racing and a destruction derby.